Pakistan bans more Web sites on religious grounds

It is monitoring some web sites and search engines for blasphemous content

Pakistan has blocked 17 Web sites and is closely monitoring seven other sites and search engines for content considered offensive and blasphemous, according to a spokesman of the country's telecommunications regulator, the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA).

The PTA issued related orders on Friday to its licensed operators after receiving a directive from the country's Ministry of Information Technology, Khurram A. Mehran, a spokesman for the PTA said on Monday in an e-mail.

The move follows an order last week by the High Court of Lahore.

Among the seven sites being monitored are Yahoo, Google, YouTube, Amazon, MSN, Hotmail and Bing, according to media reports from Pakistan.

It is not clear how PTA intends to monitor all these sites, which have a large amount of online content.

Pakistan has recently stepped up monitoring and blocking of online content that is considered offensive to Islam.

Facebook was ordered blocked by the Lahore court in a separate case on May 19 after a lawyers' organization filed a petition objecting to a pageon the Web site called "Everybody Draw Mohammed Day!," which invited users to draw cartoons of Prophet Mohammed. Depictions of the Prophet are prohibited in some Muslim traditions.

YouTube was also blocked a day later for content that was considered "sacrilegious."

The block on Facebook was removed after the company agreed to prevent the offending pages from being viewed in Pakistan. The block on YouTube was also lifted, though the PTA continued to block content it considered offensive on the site. More than 450 other links on the Internet were also blocked in May as part of the order.

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